SHOULD A CHRISTIAN WOMAN MARRY A MUSLIM MAN?
I intend to answer this question as plainly as I can without instigating any sentiments that will rob my audience of the knowledge embedded in the response the Holy Spirit has for this question. It is the sole responsibility of the Holy Spirit to guide every believer into all truth expressed in scriptures. Therefore we must first and foremost find acceptance and understanding that the work of the Holy Spirit supersedes our common doctrines, because it is he who guides us also in “our formulation” of doctrines, which is entirely the responsibility of Church leaders. This is the understanding I crave that we should all attain.
The question in context is a very complex and challenging one, and can be quite delicate and confusing if not handled according to knowledge, bringing every understanding, which should be targeted at increasing the believer in knowledge, in the context of this presentation; especially in the present worldview, where religious fundamentalism, and hateful bloodshed has taken over the liberal consideration of our collective privilege of sharing one universe in love, communality and brotherhood. Primarily, we must appreciate the fact that apart from our races, skin colours, and in some cases unfortunate deformities that differentiates us, God made us one people, one blood, with the same features, faculties and abilities, for ourselves and for others like us.
Even amongst Christians, who share one scripture, one communion, one Lord, one baptism and are called into the one household of God, we find this kind of complex consideration at play, under which we ask for reasons why the Catholic woman should marry the Pentecostal man. And coming to Christians who are indoctrinated according to the Pentecostal teachings, we still ask for reasons why a woman-member of the Deeper Christian Life Church should marry a man-member of the Celestial Church of Christ. So we find that this is all about the proliferation of doctrines and the establishment of congregations; and has nothing to do with the truth.
• The proliferation of doctrines and the establishment of congregations
This problem of the differences in doctrines has been from the beginning of the institution of the physical Church on earth, when in “the Council at Jerusalem” a dispute was addressed on whether a believer-Gentile should be compelled into circumcision according to the Laws of Moses, to qualify him for salvation (Acts 15: 1-21). It can be verified in Galatians 2:1-10 that this issue led to the forerunners of the Church on earth agreeing to divide the one Church of Jesus Christ into the “Church of the Circumcised” and the “Church of the Uncircumcised”. This was how the difference in doctrine led to the first division of the only Church on earth under one leadership and the establishment of two congregations. Apostle Paul making this very clear said:
Galatians 2: 9-10 “and when James, Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship; that we should go unto the Gentiles, and they unto the circumcised.”
So doctrinal differences has been with the Church from the very beginning; and considering the question in this discussion, I see it as the requirement pressed more on Christians than on Muslims; to distinguish who they should or should not marry. But the question is: How was this issue from the beginning of creation? Nevertheless, Apostle Paul made a brilliant submission in his effort at placing scriptures, from where doctrines are formulated; in the right perspective as in the doctrine that caused the division in the first Church:
Galatians 2: 21 “I do not nullify the grace of God: for if righteousness comes by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”
Now let us consider this question if it sounds as a law or not: “Be you not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? And what partnership has light with darkness? (II Corinthians 6:14). Laws are orders to regulate community conducts and they usually start with “Do not.” So in all honesty, the passage under reference is a law given to guide Christian conduct in the community in which he lives. We will come back to this in due course.
• In the beginning:
It is an uncontestable fact that when God created the man, although he gave him a law: that of avoiding the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17); this law was to ensure that the man, who was created as a continuous learning creature, with the ability to grow and mature out to handle authority, is regulated until he is found to qualify to eat of the forbidden tree. Every household operate laws for growing children: please note that in a household, there are “growing children” and there are “grown up children”; and the manner of their liberties differ greatly; this is not minding the fact that Adam was not created as a baby but as a man, as we have believed him to be; but yet, he had to learn living life from the stage of handling only the responsibility he is given and was not yet permitted to initiate his own, and this was the very reason for his fall.
In the same way we train our growing children with instructions; and setting them free of these instructions when they are grown up, so was God dealing with Adam at this point. But the point we should take home today is that in the beginning man did not have any religion God gave him to follow, because there was no need for it. It is also clear that the marriage institution predated the institution of religion, because until the Law came and brought Judaism by the introduction of the Torah (the Jewish scripture), even the Patriarchs lived according to their faith in God, as Adam did; and as we are expected to do, in this our dispensation; by living in the grace of God, which we obtained through faith in Christ; and been careful not to nullify it.
In the beginning, the process of marriage included the man waking up to find his wife; his wife being the product of his own bone. Nothing should offset this fact: that a wife is the product of the husband’s bone; and that the man must wake up to find his wife. A wife cannot just be any woman. There is always “a wife” and there is also always “the other woman”. It is possible to mistake “the other woman” for “a wife”; and this is normally the cause of the strangeness in some marital relationships.
We will easily agree that religion, which we only practice here on earth, is transient. There are instances where two pastors of one Church, who are husband and wife, accept to be separated or divorced, while some interreligious matrimony, in which one amongst the partners could be a Christian, can ensure a workable union. There are many practical instances to these. How can we explain this? It means something is wrong with the knowledge we have accepted and with which we have used to exclude ourselves and others.
It is therefore impressive to understand that until you find the bone of your bone and the flesh of your flesh (Genesis 2: 22-24), a man cannot say he has found his wife, because even scripture agrees that a man has to find his wife as ordained from the beginning. Proverbs 18:22 says “whosoever finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favour of the LORD”. It is therefore a doctrinal addition to scripture when we label it “Christian husband”, “Christian wife” and “Christian marriage”.
A wife is a wife, a husband is a husband, and marriage is marriage. Many a times, the attachments we put to facts of faith evolves the traditions that weigh us down our belief system, and exclude many who share the same universe with us, yet we are under the obligation to love all men with the love of God and to endeavour to bring them to Christ. If a Holy God, who cannot behold sin, can embrace a sinful race and die to save that race, then we have a lesson to sympathize with ignorant men and women than to exclude them.
Luke 7:34 “The son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publican and sinners!”
• The search for knowledge as the primary obligation of a believer
The attempt here is to deviate a little from the conventional teachings we are used to; and maybe we can learn to appreciate that the earth is full of the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9). We cannot afford to limit our search for knowledge to what others tell us, because knowledge is the arm that draws the understanding hidden in the wisdom of God. Searching for knowledge is therefore our personal responsibility, the giving of understanding is the responsibility of the Holy Ghost, and he attends to us only when our search efforts meet the required supply mark for the impartation of understanding.
The wisdom of God is the summation of our destinies in all creative tendencies, which we must uncover, as in possessing the keys of the kingdom of God and his unsearchable riches, by the understanding we reach in our search for knowledge; and this includes marriage. Understanding unfolds the unlimited measure of our successes and provisions in the Christ-life we live, such that we lack nothing that pertains to the wisdom of God. We may never get there if “children” await others to “justify” the wisdom of God for them (Luke 7:35). The justification of the wisdom of God is a personal spiritual attainment; you get it for yourself because no man has the competence to give it to you. We must bear personal witness to the wisdom of God in our physical life as the result of our communion with him in the Spirit.
• The mystery of the wisdom of God:
If it is a fact that the eagles are gathered where so ever the carcass is (Matthew 24:28) and wisdom must be justified of her children, then indeed, it will only be unto the Lord should the gathering of his people be (Genesis 49:10). What does this mean? This is the understanding: that scripture is the body, the carcass, the communion Jesus left of himself for us, and until we gather unto the scripture, where the true communion of the flesh and blood of Jesus is served universally by the Holy Ghost, believers may never be able to personally justify the wisdom of God to test every doctrine instituted by those who lead us (II Timothy 4:3). This was the situation with the first Church: Apostle Paul has a kind of knowledge that the Church leadership could not appreciate so well, though his works testified it before them (Galatians 2:11-14).
It means a believer should not be content with sitting under the anointing of other men, but to strive to personally experience the jumping out of scriptures as living “flesh” into his spirit, sustaining the God-life in him. We should not shut out the world in the same way the Jews got the oracle of God to be a blessing to the world, and shut the world out by accepting encumbering God’s blessings with the traditions their leadership introduced to the laws of God; refusing to follow after the knowledge of God, which was freely given (Romans 10:1-4). However, scripture makes it clear to us that it was for our sake that this was so (Romans 11:11).
• The understanding of II Corinthians 6:14:
This passage of scripture has to come in now because it is practically the major passage drawn in Christian congregations in the formulation of the doctrine that seem to guide the peculiar nature of how a Christian should live in his/her community, bearing in mind that evil association, partnership, communication corrupts good manners.
I Corinthians 15:33-34 “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.”
I had to take my earlier submission about evil communication corrupting good manners in context by going beyond verse 33, to add verse 34, which identifies the fact that Apostle Paul was referring to them within the Church when he added “…for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak to your shame.” This understanding led me to postulate that “all believers are Christians but it is not all Christians that are believers”. It therefore means that everyone who goes to Church is first a “Church-goer”, no matter his spiritual standing with God. It is what a Christian takes back from the Church for the benefit of his community that makes him different from other “Church-goers” who take back nothing from the Church for their communities.
It must be understood that the very reason why we go to Church is such that we can be witnesses of Christ through our lives (as of how we live), works (as of what we do) and our words (as of what we say). It is therefore to be noted that apart from our professions (as of what we say), we also silently communicate who we are to members of our community by how we live and what we do. Just as we cannot mock God, we also cannot mock the people we live and work with. Therefore it must be clear to all of us that the passage of II Corinthians 6:14 is not altogether referring to those of other religions, but to some of who share our own faith but who do not follow after the knowledge of God.
• Should a Christian woman marry a Muslim man?
Before we go further on the particulars of this question, we must be fair to the Muslims by first asking if Christians usually distinguish amongst themselves, as they distinguish between themselves and the Muslims when it comes to who to marry. Do Christians distinguish between themselves who to marry strictly on the condition of which Church each of the proposing partners attends? The answer is a capital yes! They do.
I therefore submit that this is not about nomenclature, for in my opinion the Christian who is in Church and cannot follow after the knowledge of God is worse than a Muslim whose only shortcoming is his ignorance of the scripture, but lives honourably in his community. The pretentious Christian is a wolf amongst the sheep, and can quietly devour the sheep in quietude without the shepherd knowing, especially as in the case, where such wolves live as sheep within the sheepfold. It must be clear that an ignorant man can live a more admirable life than a pretentious man.
So it is a spiritual marginalization if we permit a pretentious brother to marry a sister and resist a Muslim from marrying the same sister. To buttress this point, I also ask, are we as believers under any obligation to evangelize the Muslims, considering the last sentence Jesus made on earth before being taken up into the clouds?
Acts 1:8 “But you shall receive power, after the Holy Spirit has come upon you: and you shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the world.”
Therefore to marginalize the Muslim in any form is like repeating the sad avoidance of an innocent dying man by “those who profess to know God”, because they fear to contaminate their holiness by stooping to help the dying man, until a seeming “ignorant man” came along to help him as depicted in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Verses 36-37 summarize our responsibility: “which now of these three (the Priest, the Levite and the Samaritan), think you; was (the) neighbour unto him (the dying man) that fell among the thieves? And he (the questioner) said, he that showed mercy on him. Then Jesus said unto him, Go, and do likewise (as the seeming ignorant man)”. Jesus instructed this Jew to do as the unbeliever did and not as his religious leaders did.
We are not called as Christians to observe liturgies but to cultivate our communities for Christ by our neighbourliness in our demonstration of justice, mercy and faith, which are heavier matters of the law (Matthew 23:23). In fact Jesus called those who observe liturgies to the abandonment of mercy, hypocrites!
• Who therefore should a Christian woman marry?
First of all we must recognize that marriage adds nothing to our Christian race, and if we must marry, we also must be careful about the cares therein. Responding to a question by some Pharisees who tried to test him, asking if “it was lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause” (Matthew 19:3), Jesus volunteered the true situation of the man in marriage to them. At the end of his answering this query, his disciples in Matthew 19:10 said “…if the case of a man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.”
Apostle Paul again reiterated this fact when in I Corinthians 7:1, 8 he suggested that “…it is good for a man not to touch a woman”, however the passage did not say it is good for a husband not to touch a wife. The admonition is for them who are single. We ought also to remember that a man must wake up to find his wife, who apparently is his flesh and bone. This means that partners in marriage were already paired, if you like bound, before their earthly existence. Nevertheless, as it pertain the kingdom of God, Jesus himself revealed how it is “given” for a man to voluntarily accept to be a eunuch for the sake of the kingdom of God if he can “receive” it (Matthew 19:12).
Now coming to the question under this subject, I Corinthians 7:12-14 says and I transliterate “But to the rest I speak, not the Lord: if any brother has a wife that believes not, and she (the unbelieving wife) is pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman who has a husband that believes not, and if he (the unbelieving husband) is pleased to live with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the (believing) wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the (believing) husband”.
It is therefore clear that marriage is for the pleasure of the partners, so that the believer should not be led into sin because of his passion. From the above passage, it is also clear that in the instance that a believer-man wakes up to find his wife and she is an unbeliever, it is entirely the choice of the unbeliever-partner, not that of the believer, to choose whether or not he is pleased to live with her; and so for the believer-woman.
Finally, from all that we have so far discussed and in response to the question: “should a Christian woman marry a Muslim man?” The answer is: it is not in the position of the Christian woman to decide whether or not she should marry the Muslim man that “finds” her as his “wife”. This is the scriptural point of view: A man surely must “wake up” to “find” his wife, who is his flesh and bones; and it is up to him to be pleased to live with her, though she is a believer and he is an unbeliever; so also is the believer-man who wakes up to finds his wife, though she is an unbeliever, not required to reject her if she finds the pleasure to live with him.
Nevertheless, I Corinthians 7:27 say “are you bound unto a wife? (Being your flesh and bones that you have found?), seek not to be loose (from her). Are you loose from a wife? (Whom you woke up to find?), seek not a wife. This is because seeking another wife will be searching for “the other woman” (I Corinthians 7:10). If we all believe that marriages are made in heaven, then we are under obligation that God knows the end from the beginning, and his wisdom is unsearchable: it is given. Until we seek, we wont find; until we ask, we cannot receive, and until we knock, it cannot be opened unto us.
Remain blessed and thank you for your attention.